Translator: Kurehashi Aiko
Volume 4 Chapter 29: Dragon-san and Emperor’s Determination
「Tell me, Lava-dono: what do you think of this country?」
「…… To be perfectly honest, I was surprised.」
Even though Mikado-san asked me that half jokingly, I knew that he wanted to hear my honest opinion.
Here in this land, the appearance of monsters and demons was much larger than in Ballow, where it was relatively high to begin with. Not to mention that the ‘Eclipse’ was roaming the land. But even so, the land was beautiful and rich in resources, and people’s faces were lively and vibrant.
When I first saw it all, I thought that everyone in here were oblivious to the dangers that monsters bring with themselves.
But as soon as there was an alarm signaling the appearance of monsters near the town, the ones capable to fight took their arms and helped with defense, while others were quickly evacuating to safety.
The Guardians and Shrine Maidens were all well trained and experienced in fighting them off, which was making things much easier for the citizens.
The monsters and demons were so strange and different in here as well. They didn’t attack people in blind rage in most cases, and sometimes they even avoided contact with human settlements whatsoever.
Even though their everyday lives were in constant danger, people were still able to laugh and remain cheerful.
It is surely something that was cultivated over many years of living together, forming the bonds of mutual trust and respect.
I tell Mikado-san everything that I have observed during this past week and he nods his head cheerfully, the atmosphere getting slightly warmer than before.
「Now, what would you say if I told you that the Head Shrine Maiden is being a prisoner of all of this prosperity?」
Hearing that, the atmosphere turned to the worse again, with Nectar and I not quite understanding what Mikado-san was getting at.
「Aside from being responsible for negotiating with the gods of this land, the Shrine Maidens of Taisha are also responsible for maintaining a barrier that protects Towa from various calamities. It is said that since the days of old the gods were making them do that in order to protect the land from great evils. But even so, sometimes those evils would find their way in and prowl the land.」
I asked, and Mikado-san nodded his head.
「Yes, it is said that once every thousand or few thousand years the demons would convey, and purge this lands of their lives.」
Then, Karura-san put down her chopsticks and corrected her posture, sensing that it was her time to explain things further.
「During my lifetime, I have witnessed it twice. The white fog covers everything as far as the eye can see, and every existence affected by the fog disappears. To my knowledge, no one was able to survive that hell on earth.」
Karura-san paused here for a moment, shivering all over.
「We demons managed to compensate some of those losses, for our magic was able to erode the fog and neutralize the monsters that were spawn out of it. But we have never felt so helpless before. During the first time it hit, the only thing I was able to do was to pick up and bury my fallen brethren. Still, those who became corpses were the lucky ones, for a vast majority of them simply disappeared.」
Karura-san’s face tenses up instantly.
The fact that she, a demon, was so shaken up by those events was more than enough of a reason for us to believe her just how horrible that was.
「The second time around, there were more corpses than those who disappeared. However, during that I lost all of my contractors. Back then the contract rituals were still incomplete, so they just gave me all of their life force and withered away.」
Now Karura-san’s voice was filled with hatred, so it must have been the true emotion that was driving her right now.
…… I know that it was hard for her, but maybe someone should inform her that while she was talking with her mouth still full, some of red bean paste began to spill from her mouth.
「Karura, you know, it’s kinda hard to take you seriously when you’re having red bean paste spilling from your mouth.」
「Y, you should’ve told me that sooner!!」
「Next time, just finish eating before you start talking.」
I said that to Karura-san while passing her a handkerchief, and as she proceeded to wipe her face off with it, her face was flushed red completely.
「If it was so horrible, then why didn’t you just try to run away? Couldn’t you demons just evacuate on your own and leave the humans behind?」
「W, we wouldn’t do something as unsightly as that.」
Karura-san responded without hesitation, he face tense again.
「At the time there was a dragon who had a contract with the people of Towa, but it got tired of them and left them in their hour of need. It was different from us demons, who liked this land and its people. It didn’t care in the slightest.」
Karura-san’s expression turned even darker now.
「This cataclysm is bound to repeat itself again. I just can’t sit around and let it continue like it’s nothing.」
「That is why we turned to you for help.」
Says Mikado-san while laughing, but Karura-san looked genuinely angry.
She turned towards me, the fire of determination burning in her eyes.
「Nowadays, the peace is being protected by the joint efforts of the Guardians, Shrine Maidens and the Head Shrine Maiden. People are oblivious to the fact that they are being protected from danger by the sacrifice of others. The ancient ones decided as such. Because of that, the peace is being protected. However, Shrine Maidens are still people of this country.」
Mikado-san continued to speak, his voice filled with enthusiasm rather than hatred.
「Yes, indeed. And as the Emperor, my job is to protect the lives of the people of my country. No matter the cost. So we must stand up to achieve just that. But no more repeating the same mistakes!」
He smashes his fist against the desk, speaking from the bottom of his heart.
「Do we really need human sacrifices? Can’t we do something to prevent this crisis from repeating itself in the first place? It’s been ages since the last time it happened, so we cannot be sure it won’t be happening anytime soon. Not to mention that the current Head Shrine Maiden is my family. To that end, each successive Emperor of Towa was giving his best to overcome this problem over and over again.」
Mikado-san stopped talking and heavy silence descended upon the room.
I don’t get a lot of things form what I just heard, but one thing is clear to me: in order to protect Towa, Makoto needed to die.
Of course, after listening to this story I, too, was certain that this scenario must be avoided by all cost.
I wonder if Makoto herself knows about that? Or maybe she needed to be kept in the dark, so that Ten could complete the ritual and keep the ‘Eclipse’ sealed away?
But I could also say that Mikado-san and Karura-san were giving their best in order to prevent the calamity from happening as well.
「Before, many different approaches were being made to stop it from happening, and each consecutive Emperor was adding something new and different to the pile. But the most important thing here is to cooperate with the god of Taisha and her Shrine Maidens. That being said, Taisha chose to stay ignorant of the matter and chose another Head Shrine Maiden like it was no one’s business.」
Mikado-san laughed, and that laugh was filled with anger and sadness.
「Well then, guess it cannot really be helped. Tell us more. We need to know the full picture.」
I looked at Mikado-san with compassion.
In the end, he was just a man.
Certainly, beastmen were more adept in martial arts and combat, but they couldn’t possibly hold a candle to demons or other nations which had magecraft at their disposal.
I know that they must be afraid of ‘Eclipse’ like anyone else, but still they needed to act so that they could protect their land and its people.
He wasn’t arrogant about it, but was looking for even the slightest shred of hope that could help him achieve that goal.
I feel like I’m now able to understand Senjiro’s actions and why the people of this land were respecting him so much.
They were people wh oweren’t afraid to take actions if it was going to help them achieve their goals.
Even though I thought it was inappropriate, I smiled at Nectar and he did the same. We exchanged short telepathic conversation.
“It’s really amazing. To think that there is a human like that.”
“Yes, people like that are truly rare nowadays.”
“…… Whatever shall we do?”
“Whatever you choose to do.”
We confirm each other’s thoughts, while Mikado-san looked at us with worry, sensing that there was something going on in between us.
「So, what’s it going to be? Are you going to help us?」
「Yes, we understand. In which case……」
When I said that, Karura-san let out a sound like that.
Everyone look at Karura-san. Her eyes seem to be out of focus as she seemed to have received a message from someone, one that made her react in such a way.
Realizing that everyone was looking at her, Karura-san seemed tense, and then apologized.
「I’m so terribly sorry. It’s from one of my brethren stationed on the coast. It seems that there are two demons that suddenly appeared there and are now rampaging around. Hence, they request my help to handle the situation.」
Hearing that report, Mikado-san’s expression tightened instantly.
「It’s been a while since we had visitors from the outside world. If possible, I would like us to get to them first, before Taisha does. What do they look like?」
「One of them is a huge sea-monster that look like a jellyfish and casts illusions on our men. The other one looks human, but his speed is inhuman and he strikes them with lightning. They are both presumed to be high class demons, that is why they are requesting backup.」
Hearing Karur-san’s report, I was sure that the looks on our faces must have been at least weird.
It’s like, you know, right now we heard something totally crazy.
「Well, we can’t have them causing trouble around here. It cannot be helped……」
I raise my hand in the air, and the gazes of both Mikado-san and Karura-san focus on me.
「That’s right. You guys. Can I ask you a favor?」
「Ah, of course we shall go there. But, I have a feeling that those two are actually the acquaintances of ours.」
There was yet another awkward silence in the room, but this time around everyone kept on looking at us. I’m so sorry.